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1989: Brandenburg Gate re-opens

VIDEO : Crowds celebrate the re-opening of the Brandenburg Gate

Berlin's most famous landmark the Brandenburg Gate has been opened for the first time in almost three decades.

Thousands of people spilled on to the city's streets cheering in the pouring rain to watch the historic ceremony which effectively ends the division of East and West Germany.

East German army engineers worked through the night to tunnel through one of two crossing points in the gate, which stands in the "no man's land" on the eastern side of the Berlin Wall.

West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl walked through to be greeted by Hans Modrow, the East German Prime Minister.


"It must be a gate of peace"

East German Prime Minister Hans Modrow

Both leaders, flanked by their mayors, shook hands in a moment which signalled the first time a West German leader has officially entered East Berlin.

Delighted crowds popped bottles of champagne, hugged and kissed and waved flags of a united Germany.

Within minutes the gates had opened and thousands of people flooded through from either side of the city.

Hundreds more scrambled on to the top of the wall in jubilation chanting "Deutschland", "Deutschland".

Mr Modrow made an impassioned speech before an audience of millions, broadcast live on television to East and West Germans.

Cold war symbol

He first paid tribute to Romanians where dictator Nicolae Ceausescu has been overthrown.

"The Brandenburg Gate is not just one of many," he said.

"The burning stench of war must never be smelled here. It must be a gate of peace."

His words were almost drowned out by cheers of "Helmut!","Helmut!"

Dr Kohl responded to the people by declaring it the "most important moment of my life".

The decision to open the gate was taken on Tuesday in Dresden by Dr Kohl and Mr Modrow during their first meeting.

The 200-year-old gate was built as a monument to Prussian power and it embodied German unity until Hitler's defeat at the end of the Second World War.

It subsequently became one of the most potent symbols of Cold War division of Germany and of Europe.

In Context
The Brandenburg Gate was opened as the political landscape of both Germany and Eastern Europe was transforming.

The Communist bloc was dismantling with change in Romania and Hungary and on 9 November protestors in Germany had started dismantling the Berlin Wall.

Two days after the Brandenburg Gate opened, on 24 December, compulsory currency exchange and visa requirements for West Berliners in the East was abolished.

On New Year's Eve more than half a million people celebrated festivities at the Brandenburg Gate.

International and domestic discussions on the future of Germany in 1990 ended on 3 October when the country was formally reunited.


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